I haven't blogged for a couple of days. I feel slightly guilty, but I know it's inevitable. The trip is nearly over. Once I'm back in the UK I'll have less and less to report, and updates will become less frequent again. Perhaps that's a nice standard to set for my life: if I don't have anything to write about, I'm not living enough. Then again, sometimes you're living so much that there's simply no time to write.
Picking up from where the last post left off, I finished my open water dives and received my temporary PADI certificate (the real one will be sent to the UK). The weather was perfect on both days, and the dive sites very scenic. It's not often that you get to learn how to dive with Mount Fuji in the background and a lovely Japanese temple at the end of the bay. Unfortunately the underwater visibility was crap for both days and the water was quite murky. It didn't bother me as much as it did the other student, who was doing an Advanced Open Water dive which involved compass navigation. Not the most fun thing to do with near-zero visibility.
While the weather topside was about 30C, underwater it was perhaps around 20C. Perfect for a wetsuit, I think, but the Japanese disagreed. A lot of people were diving in dry suits and some were even wearing thick woollen socks. I did not regret my decision. The only time I got a little chilly was when we had to wait underwater near a rope while the aforementioned student attempted to do her navigation and return to us. But when it's 30C topside it's just a huge pleasure to cool down in the water. I still can't understand why people would wear wetsuits and be denied that feeling. You're going to be in the water, so at least get wet..
The second day of diving finished really quickly because I was the only student. The assistant dive instructor paired up with me as a buddy and together we finished the last (and trivial) few skills, and then I was allowed, and required, to lead the final part of the dive myself, while monitoring my buddy, the air supply and the direction. Air supply monitoring is really just basic math, made a bit trickier this time because I ended up using more air than I thought on the skill practice, which didn't match the amount we calculated on land. As my buddy and I headed out to explore the undersea world I was mentally recalculating the turning point of the dive. While I was doing that my buddy pinched me and told me to look back, and suddenly there was Doraemon! Well, a statue of Doraemon. Not long after that the dive instructor appeared out of nowhere with a camera and told us to pose with the statue. Perfect. After heading out just a little bit further we headed back, still with plenty of air in our cylinders.
Thus ends my diving adventure! The moments underwater are truly amazing, but you do have to work for it. Two hours in the car to get to the dive site, at least half an hour of equipment preparation, suiting up and planning the dive, and then after the dive you have to clean your equipment, dry it out and drive all the way back. I really don't see myself buying any equipment in the near future, except perhaps a mask and a dive computer.
After arriving back in Tokyo and dealing with my diving logbook I cycled back to Shin Okubo, the part of Tokyo that is also known as Korea town. As I mentioned before, the hotel didn't have any bicycle parking so I had to park near the station on an official parking area. After locking the bike I walked out and noticed the owner, an old man whom I saw a few days before. I asked him if I needed to pay anything, but he said since it was Sunday it was his day off, so it was free today. Odd that he would be around on his day off, but I'm not one to complain. When I came to pick up my bike the next day I had to pay double since I'd left it overnight. Karma back to neutral..
I really didn't like Tokyo this time around. The last time I stayed at a weekly mansion on the east side of Tokyo, in a very quiet area. Korea town was way too busy for my liking. It was pretty much impossible to go to any restaurants, even the standard chain restaurants, without having to queue up. The street between Okubo station and Shin Okubo station is always crowded and annoying to walk around in. I definitely won't be staying there again. Or anywhere else in central Tokyo for that matter; the hotels are way too pricey. I guess it didn't help that this time around I was on a bicycle either.
Monday morning I could finally sleep in a bit more after 3 days of getting up early to go diving. I checked out at a reasonable time in the morning, bagged up my bike and headed east. I had planned to maybe do some more sightseeing and photographing while cycling through Tokyo, but that morning I just wanted to get out of the city as quickly as possible. It was really hot that day, and the traffic didn't let up at all until perhaps the last 10 kilometers to Narita. The traffic lights were a major pain in the ass and seriously slowed me down, but at least this part became more manageable as I got farther away from Tokyo.
Narita is a sleepy town. There really isn't much to do around here, especially if you're by yourself, and especially especially if you want to avoid places where foreign tourists hang out. There's quite a lot of places specifically catering to foreigners around here, which, in my experience, is a bad sign. Any place with the word 'international' in it tends to be more crappy than your average Japanese place. Oddly enough I found myself in the McDonalds trying out one of Japan's world cup burgers. They've got 8 different items for 8 different countries. The Brazil burger was pretty damn good.
Today I went to Akihabara to do some shopping and to geek out in some of the odd shops they got there. I failed at geeking out! I'm completely out of touch with popular anime and manga. The things I like and/or watch tend to be from anywhere between 0 and 20 years ago, and I haven't exactly had a chance to watch much lately. On the western front I'm not out of touch, I just actively dislike most modern franchises (Transformers, Star Trek, Star Wars) and prefer those of my childhood. It seems that my geek life has come to a dead end, and even Akihabara is slowly shifting to newer, more popular stuff. Oh well, the Chinese ramen place that I used to visit is still there and was still damn good. There's even a second store now just a block away. It's good to see that some nice things don't disappear.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Japan: my flight leaves on Thursday morning. I've got some luggage to organize, an internet dongle to send back and perhaps some laundry to do. I'm not looking forward to Heathrow and London, but I'm immensely looking forward to seeing my girlfriend again, and the shitty room that I still call home. Time to pick up my life again! Thanks to this trip I've gained a lot of perspective, and I know which things I should be doing when I get back. I hope I can keep my current mindset going for a while after I return. With this mindset I can accomplish things.